Mabe Pearls

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Close up of a Mabe pearl ring

I woke up this morning to the following message about Mabe Pearls:

What is a Mabe Pearl“India, what do you think of this pearl ring ?
It is called a mobe’ pearl, pear shaped.  Do you know what mobe’ means?

It has .64 ct of diamonds and is  14kt yellow gold.  The pearl is 1” long and 5/8” at the widest point. From the 1980’s.  I have the opportunity to purchase it.  The color of the pearl is a pinkish/light beige.  Very pretty! The asking price is $485.00. Please give me your opinion, as much as you can from just a picture.  Thanks.”

What is A Mabe Pearl?

Awesome! Great question! These are actually not mobe pearls (although I understand the confusion!), they are called Mabe pearls. Pronounced (in my Southern vernacular) “mah-bay”.

A Mabe pearl is a half of a sphere. If you think of pearls as a sphere, like a round ball, a Mabe pearl would be half of that… a hemisphere! So, essentially, Mabe is half a pearl!

Mabe pearl earrings from China

How Are Mabe Pearls Formed?

Instead of placing a nucleus in the soft tissue body of a mollusk, and allowing the mollusk to form a spherical pearl, a Mabe is formed when the nucleus is placed against the inside shell of the mollusk. The mollusk then places its pearl making nacre around the nucleus.

However, because of the limits of the shell it’s only depositing that nacre and forming the pearl on one side.

This process can happen naturally or on purpose, through the pearl culturing process. Look at this beautiful Mabe pearl that I harvested in Mexico!

natural mabe pearl - mexico - sea of cortez - the pearl girls

The Origin of Mabe Pearl

Mabes are THE oldest form of human intervention into the pearl making process. As early as the 13th century, small metal figures of Buddha were placed against the inside shell of freshwater mussels. The mussels then deposited their nacre, or pearl making material, which them made Mabe Buddhas!

Mabe Buddhas

Blister Pearl

Another way to think of Mabe pearls is as a blister pearl. It forms almost like a blister against the shell.

To harvest the pearl, the pearl is cut out of the shell. The half-a-pearl is then placed in pins, rings or earrings.

Think of Chanel buttons, they offer the same look (although Chanels are typically not real pearls!)

Chanel button - Mabe pearl

Shape

The shape of a Mabe pearl will be dependent on the nucleus used to make the Mabe. This is why we can have pear shaped Mabes and Buddha Mabes, too! The shape is dependent on the nucleus.

Mabe Jewelry

I did a quick search online. Although Mabe pearl jewelry is not as common as it used to be, I found a few very high priced Mabe jewelry pieces available today.

Some things to consider when shopping for Mabes. Are they real? Like the Chanel button, this half of a pearl look can be attained with a little resin or plastic.

Also, is it pearl or mother of pearl? Many years ago a customer mailed her pearl class ring to The Pearl Girls for repair. Although a Mabe is formed against the shell of a mollusk, it still is a pearl. However if you just cut out the actual shell of a mollusk that would actually be considered mother-of-pearl, not an actual pearl. Unlike pearls, Mother-of-pearl is easy to carve and shape. The customer was surprised to learn that the “stone” in her class ring was mother-of-pearl, not an actual pearl.

Mother of pearl class ringThis is something to consider when shopping for Mabes.

Value

Close up of a Mabe pearl ringMany of you want to know the value of Mabe pearls. As usual, valuing pearls is not my expertise. However many Mabe pearls, like the one in this Pearl Girl’s ring, are adorned with diamonds and set in gold. This raises the overall value of the piece.

I encouraged this Pearl Girl to go for it if she loves it… but to try negotiating a lower price!

One more tip before I go… Mikimoto actually first started by culturing Mabe pearls! Read more on Mikimoto HERE!

Love,

India

 

1 thought on “Mabe Pearls

  1. Love this! I’m a big pearl enthusiast, I love to match it with my looks. It’s great to learn more about the different kinds of pearls there are and how they’re used in jewelry 🙂

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